From the day Michael Malone was hired as the Kings head coach, he didnt set goals based on wins and losses. It would be about establishing the foundation and culture needed to turn the Kings from throwing parties for the NBA draft lottery into a team that was in the playoffs.
Malone had a reference point from his time in Golden State that gave him the belief his plan would work.
Malone was an assistant coach for the 2011-12 season when Mark Jackson took over a Warriors team known for losing and not playing defense much like the Kings.
By their second season, the Warriors had made the playoffs and upset the third-seeded Denver Nuggets before losing to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.
We knew full well that it wasnt going to be easy when we took over the job here in Golden State, and when I took the job in Sacramento. When you try to take a team that has never defended and make them a defensive team, that takes time. You just have to lay a foundation and kind of pound that rock every day, and thats what weve tried to do.
Fridays game against the Warriors was the final between the two teams and was a reminder of how far the Kings have to go before becoming playoff ready.
The Warriors had no problems with the Kings in a 102-69 romp over Sacramento at Oracle Arena.
The Kings had season lows for points in a half (27 in the first) and a game in the loss. It was the lowest point total for the Kings since a 69-point effort in an 85-69 loss at Memphis, Jan. 18, 2013.
Fridays result notwithstanding, Malone has been pleased with the progress the Kings have shown in trying to defend and accept the changes hes tried to make.
Thats something that going into next season our guys know exactly who we are, what we need to be, and what my expectations are, Malone said. Now weve had a training camp and you look at all the change we had this year, that also makes it tough on the fly to instill that system. Happy with where were at; were headed in the right direction, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.
Jackson was in the Kings position his first season with the Warriors. Golden State was not a playoff team and this time of the season was about setting the tone for the following season.
(The Kings) are well coached and they are trying to finish this thing up the right way, Jackson said. They have DeMarcus (Cousins) whos one of the best in the game. Ray McCallum is getting the opportunity and hes playing very well after struggling early on. Hes gaining a lot of confidence and doing some things on the floor. You have Rudy Gay also, proven guys. You have two guys that can win ballgames.
The Kings longest-tenured player, Jason Thompson, said this season is different from his previous five when questions about relocation and a tight budget on salaries were common discussion.
This season the Kings made deals to add salary for the likes of Gay and Derrick Williams, rather than save money.
I think its going in a positive direction, Thompson said. I think its taking its course a little bit, we had some trades, guys are starting to get used to guys tendencies offensively and defensively and that takes time with the trades. I think that its going in the right direction form top-to-bottom. From (majority owner) Vivek (Ranadive) to coaches, to the players, things are starting to be more positive.
Cousins led the Kings (27-49) with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Klay Thompson led the Warriors (47-29) with 21 points.